It can be as short as twenty to thirty seconds," Hurley said. For inspiration, he recommends studying the DRTV format. Inventors would be wise to mimic that format in the videos they submit. We believe in speed to market. Traditionally, DRTV consumers are women who are thirty and older. Hurley said that Allstar has a found a way to reach different demographics, however, including the teen and tween market. Products in the cookware, personal care, auto, and pet industries do particularly well. Hurley explained that most products marketed on DRTV today are actually being sold at retail.
You've probably noticed more than a few "As Seen on TV" sections at your local big-box retailer. DRTV is being used to drive consumers to purchase products in person. Hurley estimated that Allstar Products reviews several hundred ideas a month. They know what it takes to create a top-notch Infomercial program. Licensing your product and turning the ball over to someone else may reduce or eliminate most of your risk, but it also greatly limits your upside profits as well.
The bottom line is that you have to have an understanding of your products' upside potential as well as what you'd be giving up by licensing the marketing rights. Infomercial Marketing Companies are usually more than willing to help with this assessment if they have an opportunity of providing services down the line.
In the case though where you've done your homework and have the funding necessary to pull it off, the profits will be yours.
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Let's see what it takes to put all of the necessary pieces together. Before your show airs and you begin taking calls, you'll need to have your product ready to ship, and know what your selling price can be. Commonly called, "The Offer", this is a combination of product components instructions, materials, premiums, packaging, etc. The general rule of thumb is that you'll want at least a mark up between the cost of goods, and the selling price.
You should develop several offers in terms of product, pricing, number of payments, and premiums. Remember, the better your product looks and the more value it has to consumers, the better your chances of success. Testing will be the only way to find out which offer works the best. The ERA membership can help develop your program and offer. In our listing you'll find Manufacturing Reps, Packaging Specialists, and Marketing Consultants, which can answer your questions and provide necessary services.
The program development phase is also a good time to understand and qualify your product benefits, unique features, and points of differentiation to other similar products on the market. These are the things that make your product stand out and will be critical when the times comes to begin producing your Infomercial.
The creative process involved in producing your Infomercial combined with the power of the media driving it, is what makes the number ring and drives people to your web site. There are literally hundreds of television production companies and media buying agencies across America, but very few specialize in the world of the Infomercial. Knowing what sells and how to make someone get out their credit card is as much of an art form as producing a box office hit. You'll want to hire an Infomercial Producer who's established and has a string of successes to offer. The ERA membership has many to choose from.
Once hired, your producer will get to know your product inside and out. Your understanding of the product and close involvement here will make their job easier and help to produce a winner. They will plan and write the show, set up your testimonials, help find an appropriate host, shoot it, put it together, and get your final master ready to be dubbed and sent out to television stations and networks.
This process normally takes around 90 days from start to finish. The beginning of production is also a good time to find an Infomercial Media Buying Company. Again, our membership listing is a good place to begin your search. Many of these companies have been around since the Pocket Fisherman and will really put your media dollars to work. Your media buying company will build a buying strategy that takes your product, audience and overall marketing objectives into play.
When your show is completed, they will develop a media test designed to find out how your show and offer s covert buyers. Depending on how the test results are, you may decide to roll out your show, or possibly re-edit, tweak the offer, and test again. It's important to realize that your show may not be a winner right out of the gate. The George Forman Grill, one of the most successful Infomercial products of all time, had to be tested several times before it was a knockout.
Your Media Buyer may also perform many services beyond simply buying time on TV. They understand the industry as well as anybody and can help you with many pieces of the puzzle. They handle all tape dubbing and distribution of your Infomercial to TV stations and networks. Since they work closely with Telemarketing Companies, they may also play a big role in helping you manage this process.
Because of this, it's importing to find the Media Buying Company you feel most comfortable with early in the process. The Merchant Bank processes your credit card orders and deposits money in your bank account, the Telemarketing Company takes calls off of your numbers, and your web site sells product and acts as a valuable information resource. The Fulfillment Company processes your orders, sends them to your customers, and in most cases, provides your customer service.
The operational component of your Infomercial program is extremely critical to its overall success. You can have a great show converting orders but miscues in any area of operations can put you in the red. Like Production Companies and Media Buyers, there are hundreds of businesses out there providing these services but unless they specialize in direct response television, they probably won't cut it.
Because of Visa and MasterCard regulations, not every bank accepting credit cards can process orders taken form an Infomercial or Short Form Spot. The Merchant Processor needs to be able to handle large volumes of orders and be linked to your fulfillment company for batch processing of orders. Your Telemarketing Company is where the rubber meets the road. That's where customers get their first exposure to your company and product. Very few can handle broadcast call volumes, have experience with DRTV, or possess the technology to adequately provide the reporting tools necessary to measure exactly how each spot or show that airs performs.
A good Web Site will increase your overall number of orders and greatly reduce your other operational expenses. It provides answers to questions from people not quite ready to order, validates your business, and works as an incredibly profitable aftermarket tool. Your internet presence should be designed as a direct adjunct to the TV creative and link you to customers who can supply more feedback about your product than a dozen focus groups. Product Fulfillment Companies play a pivotal role in the sense they provide multiple functions. They receive orders from your Telemarketing Company and Web Site; they interface with your merchant bank to settle your sales, ship products and process returns.
Because of this, they possess the most information about your customer and their order. It's natural then that they also provide your customer service. Since order status and returns information make up the majority of customer service activity, your Fulfillment Company is in the best position to service your customer. It becomes clear the importance of choosing a good one who is experienced in the industry.
We've focused primarily on the basics of getting a show on the air and your products in the hands of the American TV buyers. However, you shouldn't think it stops there. Many products that are successful on American TV also work very well as Infomercials overseas. And what about retail? Some of the hottest products on the store shelves began their life on television. As with the other components mentioned above, look to the ERA as your primary resource for finding the experienced companies you'll need to tackle these arenas as well.
Mike Conkle has worked in all aspects of the Infomercial Industry since He is one of the founding owners of Sandcastle Interactive. These days, anyone armed with a basic desktop computer can make just about anything imaginable come to life on a screen. Unfortunately, when it comes to short-form DRTV production, this low barrier to entry tends to bring out the worst in people—especially those who urge to be George Lucas for 30 or 60 seconds.
Jeff Young at ShadowBox Pictures produced the program's spot. Atomic Direct's spot advertising for i-opener includes a toll-free number and Web address for the product. Once consumers arrive at the company's Web site they view Web site animation developed by Atomic Direct. By the time they make it onto the air, those , or second spots look like a piece of cake to throw together. After all, how hard could it be to write a script, get a camera and throw some talent together to create a short-form infomercial.
Don't be fooled by their appearance. Much work, time, sweat and effort goes into each DR spot that makes it onto the air. Typically, she starts with a product that brings with it a bit of creative strategy. From there, she brainstorms with the producer or director to come up with a position that they agree on, and maybe even an offer that they sell to the client.
Then, she drafts a rough script, and it's back to more brainstorming—this time with the client included. The next step, according to Szot, is the shooting of one spot with three different tests: price, offer and value-added.
Six months later, if it's applicable, I refine the spot again to drive retail, and that's it. Short form typically has a short life. Toronto-based Phoenix Productions puts a greater emphasis on image and relies on a softer sell approach in DR spots for clients like Kmart and Walgreens. Know that if you don't do your homework, your product could fail too.
But there's a positive side to the advancements in spot production, according to Feinberg, who says that you "just can't miss what's right about short-form production when you see a spot that does everything right. But getting back to those low barriers to entry, because Feinberg isn't the one who has noticed how they're affecting the industry.
Prices are going up, quality is improving and clients are demanding more and more. In other words, it's business as usual in the world of spot production. And while all agree that the costs for creating good spots have increased, so too have the variables involved with the process. Those variables include:. Who you hire as your production team will automatically determine up to half of your production budget. On the downside, Szot says too many marketers are still hoping to run a spot one weekend, then reap the rewards by the following Monday.
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Test your price, test your upsell—test, test, test. Listen to what the numbers are telling you and pay attention to your timing. It has infiltrated just about every industry in the last few years, the DR space included. Call it the 'Net, call it the Web, call it cyberspace—by any name, it's a powerful new medium that direct response advertisers are using with a vengeance.
Titans of Direct Response
In fact, I can't think of a single DR production we've done in the last two years that didn't include the Web address. Doug Garnett, president of Portland, Ore. However, he adds that consumers are still not purchasing from the Web in large numbers. I think a lot of people were using the DR format because they could get media rates that way.
For example, Marshall says a few of his clients from the insurance industry are more interested in directing potential customers to their Web sites, and not so much interested in taking phone calls from them. But a Web site does not a toll-free number make, so for now those companies solely interested in driving traffic to their sites will have to wait for the lower rates.
For the last year or so, Wonderful Writer, LLC's Szot says she's been deluged by inquiries from pharmaceutical companies and Fortune companies. They want DR spots, and they have money to spend. After all, she adds, when was the last time you heard "allow six to eight weeks for delivery. People respond to that. Grey Direct's Feinberg says right now, "everyone is doing spots," from Fortune companies to start-ups, dot-coms to brick-and-mortar institutions, and national brands to local newspapers. Expounding on that comment, Feinberg says it's the dot-coms that have raised the noise level and "weirdness level" in DRTV recently.
In the drive for intrusiveness and differentiation from competing Web sites, he says, many of them have spent "horrifying sums of money on truly dumb advertising. In nailing down just why all of these firms are using DR spots, most agree that the goal is a mix of brand awareness, driving customers to retail, with a bit of direct selling thrown in. Lead generation is another option, though it's an expensive process that not all companies can afford to manage.
In fact, Atomic Direct's Garnett says he wishes more clients would use spots for lead generation, which takes the capital backing to get the leads and convert them effectively. Duane Andrews, president and creative director for Toronto-based Phoenix Productions, says he sees more of an emphasis on image in DR spots, and less focus on the quick demonstration type of spot. However, that signifies a move away from the hard sell approach that traditional DR spots were originally after.
But that direct-to-retail softer sell approach works for a lot of our customers right now. The Firm Multimedia's Cunningham likens the running of a spot production company to a balancing act. He says it's all about owning the latest, the fastest and the coolest, while at the same time trying to determine what has real staying power. According to Grey Direct's Feinberg, the real challenge is creating a clutter-breaking idea in a context that makes people respond immediately.
For every down-and-dirty, shrill announcer over product demo shots, you'll also see some highly conceptual, beautifully art directed, carefully cast spots. FMS Direct's Buchser concurs, and says that in the past, it was good enough to see a product, write a script and throw it on the air. Now, success requires a well thought-out presentation based on research and market analysis. Overall, the real key to success in spot production still boils down to one thing: the product. When the words "direct marketing" are uttered to the average consumer, they will most likely conjure up thoughts of late-night infomercials and the hundreds of envelopes of junk mail they throw out on a monthly basis.
While these are valid direct marketing tactics, good marketers know that there's a lot more to direct marketing than just getting in a consumer's face. This year, with the Internet transforming into a medium that symbolizes progression and success for many of the companies that are setting up shop online, the direct selling arena is no longer limited to just traditional brick-and-mortar companies. As an invaluable direct selling tool that virtually eliminates the middleman, electronic commerce is nothing less than hot, and more than one of the direct marketers on our list knows it.
With that, we salute the following top marketers of the year, whom we've chosen for various reasons, but mainly for remaining flexible and representing growth in a rapidly evolving business climate. Whether they're on the front lines or working from a back office, all of these individuals played a vital role in their companies' growth in the last year. It started out with the Orlimar Trimetal, and then I was flooded with requests to write for golf gloves, trainers, putters, books and videos," says the Minneapolis-based writer. Success for Szot means that now, after nine years of writing direct response and 22 years in the advertising business, she gets to pick and choose her projects.
Szot, who opened her own business in , says her recent accomplishments include generating 1, orders a day for Fitness Quest; moving , units in 30 days for NordicTrack when they had projected 90 days ; creating the first-ever infomercials for Troy-Bilt; and writing all four of the highly successful David Dikeman Command Performance shows. Today, Szot says many clients ask her why she doesn't subcontract work out. She explains: "I don't think I'll ever do that because I'm just passionate about writing.
I always plan to be at the helm of every project I take on—and let's face it, that's why people call me There's nobody down the hall. A related problem, familiar to anyone who has ever worked from home, is how easy it is to be distracted. But I've always been very disciplined.
DRTV Frequently Asked Questions
You have to have a certain type of discipline to work from home; I don't think it's for everybody. As the name of her business, Wonderful Writer, LLC, demonstrates, Colleen Szot takes a direct, aggressive approach to spreading the word about herself. How do I let them know I'm here? Szot didn't wait for a healthy cash flow before she began to market.
That has made a ton of difference. Number tow, she's got a toll-free number. She's making it easier for me to call her, and she can obviously justify that kind of expense. And number three, she's her ein periodicals that I'm reading. Angie knows best to call me whenever US West comes out with something new that might help my business.
Marketers look for salvation in creative, but can high production values cover up flawed merchandise? Colleen Szot recently found herself at home, sitting down to watch an infomercial she had scripted. Produced by Randy Argue, the minute show was for First Bank of Marin's "Take Charge" program, a customized, secured credit card that also helps users take charge of their finances and get back on track financially.
A TV special about credit? While not every infomercial these days is neatly cloaked in an information-packed wrapper, marketers and producers are taking new and different tacks to get through to a world full of consumers who are becoming more and more immune to advertising by the day.